[Harp-L] Old Time Tunes

Someone wrote:"I'm trying to get copies of the music for the following two old-time 
Southern tunes: 'Watermelon Hanging on the Vine' and 'How Old are You 
My Pretty Little Miss'." "How Old are You..." is essentially one of many versions of song/ tune also known as "Susannah Gal", "Western Country", "Sixteen Next Sunday", and probably some other names I can't think of. You  might check some old folk song books or collections in the  bricks-and-mortar library if you actually need the music for them. Both tunes are part of the old pre-amplification tradition of singing the melodies of instrumental tunes, often with words that are also sung to other tunes or "nonsense syllables" (a subject in itself encompassing "play party" songs, Irish lilting, and the Gaelic words used to teach bagpipe finger movements),or playing the melodies of songs as instrumentals, something that Bluegrass bands still do today. In older times, in Appalachia and Ireland (and probably other places as well), singing and instrumental music were considered two different things. I have heard "old timers" refer to an instrument as "music" (as in, "Did you bring your music with you?" ), NOT refering to sheet music. One reason behind the distinction might be that several religious traditions forbade stringed instruments in church (or even daily life). Perhaps a more important reason is that while it isn't too hard to sing along with one banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, or harmonica (there's my harp content) few untrained singers had the ability to "croon" over a whole string band. It took the invention of the microphone for Bluegrass to develop by combining the instrumental and vocal traditions. "Watermelon.." is an example of a "minstrel" type song adopted into the mainstream Southern folk tradition, so you might be able to find some ancient printed music in a "minstrel" collection. I'll let someone else explain the minstrel tradition, suffice to say, it is racially charged. I'd say you'd be as well off to learn either tune by ear and notate them yourself. There's no "right" way-each player learns a skeleton of the tune and then puts in their own embellishments. Like the Blues, the part that can be notated is not the important part. Cheers, emily
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